Sunday, January 27, 2008

Good to great

This weekend I finished reading a book called "Good to great" by Jim Collins. This was a book about why some companies suddenly start to become very successful, compared to others in the same industry. The front of the book claims that two million copies have been sold. I would guess that a large fraction of the sales have been as gifts to Richard Branson. Collins is very down on superstar CEOs who spend more time getting publicity than running the company. Also he doesn't like firms just randomly buying other assets without any competence in the new business. (Painting them red and putting a V on them doesn't count) Collins doesn't mention Richard Branson, but writing this review, I have found that I hate him. Oh well, he can join the club.

Bay of Souls

I have just read "Bay of Souls" by Robert Stone. I stopped reading recent literary fiction, because I got tired of reading about the problems facing people working in English literature departments. So this novel didn't start too well dealing with the problems of a Professor of English. It was well written I admit. However, things heat up when he goes with his lover to an Island in the Caribbean.

No Country for Old Men

I went to see "No Country for Old Men" on Wednesday. What a great film! Trouble is now I know the the good guys don't always win. In fact the crazy and insane prosper, while the good either die or retire. It feels as though the Universe has changed. My head has been turned.

A test of my moral fiber.

I was siting down when I heard scraping sounds. I suddenly thought, there is a bird trapped in the chimney. How did it get there? There was a lot of scratching and what sounded like the flapping of wings. There is fitted fire in fireplace so there is no easy access to the chimney. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. Ring the landlord or the fire service for them to pull the bird out I have various tools that I don't know how to use. so perhaps I could have freed the little bird with my trusty hammer. The other option would have been to ignore the sound and spend the next two days listening to the poor bird die. We are not talking about a beautiful song bird, whose song fills the listeners with delight, or a mighty eagle that soars above us. I doubted whether it was a wise owl. It was more likely a pigeon and I was expected to free it so it could sh*t on my windows again. The sound died after a 30 seconds, so my moral character was not tested (probably a good thing). Perhaps I am going insane. It would be cool to see a colourful warped reality.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recalled to life

I read Recalled to Life by Robert Silverberg while I was in Spain (that blue sky). This is a science fiction novel about a lab that discovers a way to bring people back to life who have recently died. An ex-governor is hired to do the press for the lab. It was clearly a clever philosophical novel, about the reaction of the church and other groups to this new procedure. There were number of loose ends like a Senator who is accidently murdered. Still you have to admire the book for dealing with the fear of death.

Why I joined the church of Scientology

I joined the Scientology movement for a day when I was 16. The clinching argument was that it payed better than picking strawberries. Unfortunately, as way to recruit people into Scientology there is some kind of personality test. I managed to fail this test. It was a very complicated test and involved running about and doing errands. It seems very unfair that Tom Cruise was allowed to join, but not me. I would have fought the decision to kick me out if I had known that William Burroughs went "clear". Over the holiday I enjoyed reading "The bare-faced messiah" by Russell Miller. This is the story of L Ron Hubbard who founded Scientology. Hubbard was a science fiction author who claimed to have found new insight into mental health (dianetics). The first part of the story was boring because it wall about him as a child who was loved by a large family. As he got older he started to start telling bolder and bolder lies. From the book it did sound that he had manic depressive qualities. He sounded immensely charismatic, and was a good confident speaker. Anyway just in case anyone from the Church of Scientology wants to sue me, you can read the book yourself and judge for yourself. There is track by Mike Skinner from the Streets who complain about camera phones making it hard to do drugs. Because if you are famous than there is always someone ready to take a video or picture to put it on youtube, or sell it to the papers. In a similar vein, it is hard to found a religion these days, because everyone's life is so well documentated. I also thought this when I read Joseph Smith founding the church of the latter day saints. It could be that the Internet and the camera phone will stop any further religions from being started, because there will always be ways to rubbish the founder. I payed 13 pounds for the book from Amazon. I knew it was secondhand, but it had a stamp in it that it was withdraw for sale from a London library. The stamp also told me the book was sold off for 1 pound. Even the anti-Scientology groups rip you off.


One part of "the lay guide" involved asking a woman around to look at your CD collection. There was a right and wrong way to do this. Umm, I am glad I read that because if I invite someone round to look at my CDs, then they are going to looks at my CDs. If I hear any negative comments, they get thrown out of the flat. Below is a list of CDs in my room with the computer, that a poor unfortunate visitor who be forced to listen to. Anthony and the Johnsons "secretly Canadian" (anguished singing). Elbow -- a cast of thousands (famous Manchester band) Jolie Holland -- Escondia (new country / folk) Violent Femmes -- Permanant Record: the very best of Gallows -- Orchestra of Wolves (new punk band) Can -- Tago-Mago (Kraut Rock) The lovers -- The lovers. french music Regina Spektor -- Soviet kitsch (distorted female singer) Blue cheer -- Vincebus eruption (Loud 60s blues / heavy band)

The lay guide

This week I finished reading "The layguide -- the rules of the game, how to become the ultimate pick up artist". In my defense of reading a book on picking women up, I would like to point out terms such as "the neg" or "wingman" are now part of the common culture. So a well read person needs to know them. I can rememeber exactly when I started reading this, but I dimly rememeber that I bourght it in Liverpool. Anyway I think it has taken over a year for me to finish this book. Given that the book is all about getting more sex, that tells that I didn't enjoy the book. I had the most problems with the first part, where the woman is approached. I would read a couple of pages and then I would get up and say "I am not saying that." However after reading the book I have decided that I am not going to use my favourite chat up line: "who is youir favourite singer out of Kevin Coyne and Phil Ochs?", anymore. Even after reading the book I still like so I am a lost cause. I enjoyed the second part of the book more. Somehow this seemed more useful. Are the women of Glasgow ready for the new confident me. Probably.

Monday, January 21, 2008

the naked Jape

The culture show on TV had Jimmy Carr do a segment on jokes. I found out that Jimmy had written a book with Lucy Greeves, called "the naked Jape." The book contained a history and analysis of jokes. There were also quite a large collection of jokes in the book. Jimmy Carr is more of a joke comedian, as he just tells many very short jokes. Many modern comedians, now tell longer stories. Armed with this new theoretical knowledge of jokes, I can finally add GSOH to my myspace and facebook accounts.

streaming media

I got a copy of "streaming media" by Tobias Kunkel from Amazon fairly cheaply. This was first published in 2003, so is a bit dated in these internet times. I now have a better idea of the streaming software that is used to play radio via the internet. I mostly read the book, because I keep having problems with firefox playing radio 6 via listen again. If I make any changes to firefox, all the settings that let me do "listen again" stop working. The book didn't take about firefox at all, but now I sought of know what a codec is. Also, I guess that this kind of technological information is required to provide movies on the web. So I now know how to set up a po*n channel, given the exciting way the job situation is going, this may be an option.

a brief history of the middle east

My holiday in Spain was a reading holiday. I also read "a brief history of the middle east" by Christopher Catherwood. This was interesting, but I felt I should know more about the British empire's role in the destruction of the Ottoman empire. I know that I should be embarrassed by the "Suez crisis", but I am still unsure what that was all about -- apart from something about canals.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Before I went on holiday there were many obituaries for George Macdonald Fraser. I had never heard of the dude, but he was famous for writing the Flashman series of books. While I was in Borders in the center of Glasgow, I saw a single copy of Flashman so since fate willed it I layed out some silver and got some holiday reading. The book was set at the height of the British Empire. Flashman gets expelled from the Rugby public school and joins the army. He ends up fighting in Afghanistan. However, the main joke is that Flashman is a bully, coward, and a womanizer (the kind of person I have always wanted to be). So whenever there is any fighting he always tries to run away, but somehow things always end up with him being viewed as a hero, and all the real heros dead.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bob Dylan and me

While I was in Spain I finally got around to reading "Chronicles" by Bob Dylan. I had been putting off reading it, because for some reason I thought it was going to be a tedious "kiss and tell" type book. Well frankly I had lost faith in Bob Dylan many years ago. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan. In the early 80s this was uncool for many reasons. At the time the charts were full of Duran Duran. If I had been cool then, I would have been listening to some arty post punk music, but I wasn't. Dylan was viewed as a spent force. Although he had put the fantastic infidels album, after a period of born again Christian music (that I actually quite liked). I didn't like the other albums he released in the rest of the 80s and 90s. Over the holiday period there was an article in Guardian about various artists who were washed up, but still put albums out. The examples were Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney (who has been crap for over 30 years now). The author of the article used Dylan as an example of an artist who was washed up, but somehow managed to move back into the fore front of music/art. I wasn't convinced by this, much as a like his albums after "Time Out Of Mind". The book is really fantastic. It jumps between various periods of his life. There are some scenes when he is just starting out in New York. Also there are parts about when he was recording "Self Portrait" and "Oh Mercy", neither of which are great albums. The stories he tells about making the records are more interesting than the finished music. When he was making "self portrait" he was hounded by people and was missing a normal life. When he was working on "Oh Mercy" he was feeling washed up as an artist. It is so cleverly written. Of course I don't think you get to see the real Dylan. There is still a lot of smoke and mirrors around, but I would't have wanted it any other way. Hey Bob Dylan you are back for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Head on

I think I am allergic to Doris Lessing's books. I almost ran out of books while I was in Spain. Luckily I found a good second hand book store in Nerja, thanks to the tourist office. On the dusty well filled shelves, I found two books by Doris Lessing, but somehow I wasn't ready. OK, she won the Nobel prize this year, but I just couldn't face it. Instead I bought "Head on" by Julian Cope. This was the history of the Liverpool punk scene, as seen through Julian's eyes. He was in the "tear drop explodes" and the book ends up about Julian's experiences in the band. Although Julian Cope is now the "elder" statesman of cool and underground music, he sounded like an annoying twat when he was young. There was a lot of pages about him having temper tantrums. He seemed to really hate "echo and the bunymen." I now know a bit more about Eric's club in Liverpool where the punk bands used to play around 79. Somehow when he started taking drugs, he became an easier person to be with, even when he did things like rip up a carpet in a hotel.

Monday, January 14, 2008

bull fight

Last night I watched a bullfight. OK, it was on TV, but this is the twenty first century. There was a horseman who stuck spears into the back of the bull. The bull´s neck was covered in blood. The horse ride would taunt the bull by reading close and trying to stroke its head as it charged. I watched two fights one by a man and another by a woman. When they showed the audience it was clear that the bull ring was nearly empty, (much like an athletic event in the UK), but there were enough people to cheer and throw down leather gourds of wine. The woman bull fighter wasn´t very good at sticking the spear into the bulls neck. Either it would come out or it wouldn´t stick. AS more spears entered the bull, it got slower and slower. At some stage the bull collapsed and died. The matator circled the ring and proudly begged applause from the crowd. There was some other kind of attack on the bull. One person on foot would provoke the bull. It would charge him. He would than grab the horns of the bull and other people would pull the bull of them. I don´t think that this was an accident. (Although one time the bull shook the guy off and bashed him on the ground. I don´t think that was meant to happen.) There was some charging at capes, but that didn´t seem the main part of the show. Even though that little TV screen has shown me much blood letting, it still didn´t feel right to see the bull get slaughtered in the ring.

Rain in Spain

How does the saying go, the rain in Spain stays mostly in the plane. Well I think not. Today it has been raining very heavily in the costal town of Nerja. I couldn´t tell from CNN whether the wheather was worse in Glasgow (otherwise how else am I going to enjoy the remaining day of my holiday). The rain makes it difficult to read outside. I am also running out of books, so I am going to have to look at the bookshop up the road to see what English language offerings that they have.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

creative tension (not)

I was hoping that this holiday would be more relaxing than previous ones. All I do is sit on benches read my book and then eat. So far it has not rained and has been fairly warm. Since I have not tried to do anything, nothing has gone wrong so far. I feel that I may be relaxing a little too much. A bit of stress helps progress. The only English language show on TV is CNN. This seems to repeat so much that it does my head in. They are still playing a segment about two brothers in Afghanistan who have drug problems. I saw the same segment last year in a hotel room in Germany. I am trying to cultivate an image as a gangster. I am reading a book on streaming video, just so that people think I am so kind of technical porn king. The technical stuff on streaming video looks fairly complicated, not like they show on the CSI TV program. At home I spend a lot of time trying to get realplayer to work with firefox under linux. It work, then I may some minor change to firefox and I lose access to the BBC radio shows. Perhaps I will have some adventures in the afternoon. But first a spot of lunch.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Holiday in Spain

My last two trips out of Glasgow seemed to involve a lot of rain. I don´t want to complain, but I do see a lot of rain in Glasgow, so sometimes it is nice to go somewhere where I can see the sun. (Actually it is nice to see the blue sky). I am taking a couple of days in Nerja in Spain. This is a small town near Malga. I really came here because it is cheap at this time of year. My mum pointed out (somewhat bitterly) that it is one of her favourite places. We had a family holiday here, over 20 years ago. After I worked how to use cheap airlines I have been to Madrin and Barcelona, but I have tried to stay away from the hard core tourist areas that the British invade to get drunk in the sunshine. I felt I needed a break. Nerja is a smaller town, so it is not one of the main tourist areas for British holiday makers. I have heard a lot of English in the sreets. It is an older crowd who are the tourists. So much less drunkardness, but a lot of stopping in doorways. I did laugh when I walked 5 yards outside my hotel and found places where I could get an English breakfast. A pub close by had the Tennants T sign. (I actully drink more San Miguel when I am in Glasgow so drinking tennents would be a bit of change). After spending the day lazing around in the sun and just looking at the sea, I now kmow why British gangsters come here. I have mostly just been reading all day.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Tesco has been selling Tusker beer from Kenya. Being an international kind of dude, I bought a couple of Tusker beers. Particularly after I noticed that the brewers of Tusker beer were running a promotion where you could win a trip to Kenya. I kept buying the Tusker beer to help win the competition, because sometimes you need a lot of product to enter the competition, but in fact you only needed one bottle of beer. So far so good. There is now major unrest in Kenya because of the problems with elections. I posted off my application, on Saturday, in some kind of hope that the trouble would be over, when I would get my trip. I was watching TV. The police fired live rounds on a demonstration. The people fled very quickly. I just can't imagine how scared I would be running from automatic weapons.

Friday, January 04, 2008

white bicycles

I have just finished a great book called "white bicycles" by Joe Boyd. Joe was a record producer in the 60s and ran the famous UFO club in London (early hippy hang out). He produced the first Pink Floyd single. He also discovered / produced Nick Drake. So this guy has been around. Boyd did the sound for Bob Dylan's famous performance at the Newport folk festival in 1966. It was at that performance than Dylan went electric. Poor old grumpy Pete Seeger got very angry and kept asking for the volume to be turned down. Dylan and his band only played 3 songs. Boyd started out helping to promote traditional blues and jazz bands, so although he was excited by what Dylan was doing, he also felt sad because the Newport folk festival was meant to preserve folk traditions, and Dylan helped destroy that a little bit. Although Boyd didn't like people to be too traditional, because in some sense it make the artists pander to audience expectations too much.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The stake holding society

I finally finished reading "the stake holding society" by Will Hutton. This was a collection of his essays, that were published up to the first year that the nasty new labour people came to power. Will Hutton is a famous journalist and the essays cover a lot of ground. Hutton is part of the new left in that he believe in higher taxation and wealth redistribution that were concepts that disappeared when the labour and conservative parties became just two different factions of the global tory party. It was slightly depressing to read about the early years of Blair's rule, because everyone was still optimistic about the future. Hutton is pretty smart, but sometimes I wondered whether a royal divorce could be linked to the economic problems in the UK.


What is this thing called tradition? Is all human behaviour relative, or are there universal rules? I don't know. After over a decade of dragging my mum to the pub on Christmas day for a beer, this year she described this pub outing as a "tradition". Result! My other tradition is to drink sake on new years eve. I am not sure how many years, I have been doing that. On reflection is has only been two years, so that is clearly not long enough to call that ritual a tradition. Particularly as this year my bottle of sake was actually from California. Next year, I will be more traditional with sake from Japan.